India to link 12 more countries to Pan-African network

On Aug 16, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna will have a video-conference with ministers of 12 African countries. These will be the second batch of African nations to be formally inducted into the satellite network.

"In some countries, the foreign minister would be at the launch site, while in others, the concerned minister would be present for the ceremony. We will be going to each country through video-conference one-by-one," said a senior external affairs ministry official.

The first batch of eleven countries had been inducted in February 2009, when the then external affairs minister, Pranab Mukherjee had inaugurated the network with a similar video-conference ceremony.

"Since the minister speaks to each country one after another, there is a limited time in the schedule and we have had to restrict the number of countries to twelve," he said.

So far, India has signed agreement with 47 countries in Africa, but the infrastructure has been completed in thirty-four of them.

The countries that will be formally part of the network are Botswana, Burundi, Ivory Coast, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Libya, Malawi, Mozambique, Somalia and Uganda. "For the first time, we will have to countries from North Africa who will be part of the program," the official, who could not be identified because of government rules, told IANS.

The eleven countries in the first batch were Benin, Burkina Faso, Gabon, The Gambia, Ghana, Ethiopia, Mauritius, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal and Seychelles.

There are three components to the Pan-African network, implemented by state-run Tele Communications of India Limited (TCIL) which are tele-medicine, tele-education, as well as, a "VVIP" network between the heads of state or government.

The pilot project of the network was with 34 students to acquire a degree in masters of business administration from Indira Gandhi National Open University, without even leaving their country's border.

Since then, 2000 African students are enrolled to get their degrees from top Indian universities, by attending classes by Indian lecturers, through video-conferencing.

Besides, doctors in African hospitals are also getting further training as part Continuing Medical Education classes conducted by Indian doctors working in super-specialty medical institutions here. "We have conducted 658 CME sessions so far," said a senior TCIL official.

Online medical consultation is also being provided to each participating African country for a period of five years in various medical disciplines.

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